State legislators could begin debate today on proposed changes to the two-year, $8.6 billion state budget adopted last session.
Appropriations Committee Chairman, Sen. Heath Mello of Omaha, is pleased with the adjustments forwarded to the full legislature, which proposes increased capital spending while closing a projected shortfall.
“I think it was a matter of some well-thought out plans, both from the administration as well as what the Legislative Fiscal Office had been considering for us to review,” Mello tells Nebraska Radio Network.
The budget committee caught a break during the session when the forecasting board revised its initial projection of a $132-million shortfall. Improved income tax collections offset still lagging sales tax receipts to brighten the revenue outlook somewhat.
Mello also credits the administration of Gov. Pete Ricketts for proposing re-appropriations to close much of the budget gap.
Mello calls the proposed changes “infrastructure-based” budget recommendations.
The Appropriations Committee recommends taking $50 million from the cash reserve fund to create the infrastructure bank included in Gov. Ricketts’ recommendations. Ricketts actually asked for a $150 million transfer.
Other proposed expenditures from cash reserve include $27 million to add prison space and nearly $14 million to upgrade the Missouri River levee that protects Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.
Even with the influx of capital improvements to add prison beds, the Department of Correctional Services will likely need more money both for programs and space in the future.
“I’m well aware and I think my colleagues are well aware that we have a long road still ahead of us as a state to turn that agency around,” Mello says.
The budget leaves about $10 million to fund bills being debated this session by the Unicameral.
Mello says his committee has met the significant needs facing the state, the priorities of state senators, while protecting the state against future liabilities.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]